FORT MYERS, Fla. — The double battle for No. 1 between Jaylen Brown and his Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) team and Ben Simmons and his Montverde (Fla.) teammates was decided by Nos. 23 and No. 20.
No. 10 Wheeler won the championship of the 42nd City of Palms Classic, defeating No. 1 Montverde 72-65 Tuesday night at Bishop Verot High.
Simmons, considered the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, led all scorers with 28 points and had 11 rebounds and Brown, considered the No. 2 senior, was equally impressive, with 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
But the difference was the play of Wheeler’s No. 23 Shembari Phillips, who had 20 points and No. 20 Darius Perry, who had 15.
“We put in a lot of work and going up against JB (Jaylen Brown) in practice every day has made us better players as one,” Phillips said. “We’re a family on and off the court and we hang out together on the weekend. We care for each other and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. We have the brotherhood that we bring to the court.”
“My guys are hungry,” Brown said. “People don’t really know who they are and I give a lot of credit to my guys. They won the show tonight. When I fouled out (late in the fourth quarter), they finished the game and I’m proud of them. Great win.”
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle, whose team won the last two City of Palms Classic championships, agreed that Phillips and Perry made a big difference.
“They’re good players, but I thought they played better games tonight than they did earlier in the tournament,” Boyle said. “Obviously JB (Brown) is a big-time player, but they stepped up big-time today and hit big shots.”
Montverde (11-1) had won 45 games in a row, including a 74-46 defeat of Wheeler at the Cancer Research Classic last January in Wheeling, W.Va.
“We weren’t intimidated (in that game),” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “We didn’t play well and they did and they had something to do with that.”
Though Wheeler (9-0) is No. 10, with their impressive showing at the City of Palms, the Wildcats could take over the No. 1 spot in the next Super 25 rankings. However, Montverde may get another crack at Wheeler before that happens as both teams are playing in the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore., just after Christmas.
“Sometimes in high school, when you lose, you don’t get another chance at them, but we could play them next week,” Boyle said. “We at least have a chance to reverse that. We know they are an excellent team. We still have a shot for a national title. We have so many big games ahead and we have to get better.”
The game was tied at 59 when Brown asserted himself. He leaped high to pick off a pass by Montverde point guard Marcel Ponitka, then hit two free throws when he was fouled on a layup at the other end. A moment later, he rebounded a Simmons miss, then made a nice pass to Phillips, who converted a layup for a 64-59 lead with just under two minutes left and the Eagles couldn’t recover.
“I’m so proud of Shembari,” Brown said. “He’s going to do great things at Tennessee. This is a beautiful win, but it’s the first of many. I don’t want to lose a game this year. I’m just glad we won this one. I told all of our guys to take a deep breath before the game started.”
Wheeler is the first public school to win the tournament since Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 2004.
Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) 51, Trinity (Louisville) 47
The No. 2 Trojans (13-1) responded well after losing their first game of the season Monday to Wheeler, outlasting No. 40 Trinity behind Harry Giles III’s 24 points and 12 rebounds and Kwe Parker’s 12 points and six assists.
Giles had the the second-best dunk of the tournament when he caught teammate Michael Buckland’s miss with one hand and slammed it in one motion. He followed that up with another slam a moment later and while there was showmanship involved, the back-to-back buckets gave the Trojans a 44-36 lead just as Trinity was threatening.
The Shamrocks (6-2) were led by Daniel Ramser with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Here are a few quick highlights from the game: